Home Cooking > <i>Al Fresco </i>Flair

Ah, summertime and the cooking should be easy… and al fresco! That translates to “in the open air” from Italian. But it also means utilizing the freshest fruits and vegetables that define summer eating, as well as moving your dining experience outdoors to enjoy with family and friends amid cool breezes and plenty of sunshine.

So whether it’s the back yard, the beach or a getaway summer cottage, give yourself a break from the normal kitchen routine, fire up the grill and let it be the appliance of choice for quick meals during the dog days of summer.

It used to be that grilling was synonymous with slapping on the ubiquitous hamburger and hot dog. Please don’t get me wrong—they may be the all-American standard outdoor fare, but today’s savvy cooks have gone beyond tradition and are utilizing the grill to turn out sizzling and sassy foods that range from grilled gourmet pizza to grilled fruits. How about fresh corn on the grill, generously painted with pesto butter; a BLT made with grilled bacon, beefsteak tomatoes and even grilled bread; or grilled eggplant topped with creamy mozzarella cheese and fresh mint.

Home grillmeisters are experimenting with all kinds of exotic spicy rubs, citrus and wine marinades, as well as unusual herb blends for meats, fish and poultry. For meats, it is best to choose cuts that will not dry out, char or flare up—such as Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Balsamic Orange Marmalade Sauce.

Even if you don’t have a grill, access to local farmers’ markets and in-season fruit and vegetables in the supermarket can open a whole new world of al fresco dining; try crunchy lettuce salads topped with apricots, peaches, blueberries, gourmet cheeses, nuts and fresh herbs. Somehow, it all tastes better outdoors!

Dining al fresco is simple when you think local and in season. So, dine outdoors—because those soft summer breezes will surely give way to autumn’s chill.

Mary Ann Esposito’s recipe For an Al Fresco Lunch

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Balsamic Orange Marmalade Sauce
Serves 4

Try this easy grilled pork tenderloin, a favorite of my husband, Guy, who came up with the recipe one blazing hot summer day. It is served it with a quick-to-make balsamic vinegar and orange marmalade sauce. This most tender cut is elegant, moist and tangy. A great company choice that is stress-free and perfect for al fresco dining!

-2 whole pork tenderloins (about 1¼ pounds each)
-Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
-One 8-ounce jar orange marmalade
-¼ cup balsamic vinegar

1. Preheat an outdoor grill to 450°F. Wash and dry the tenderloins well with paper towels. rub them with fine sea salt and coarse black pepper and set aside.

2. heat the marmalade with the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan until smooth. use ¹/? cup of the sauce for basting the tenderloins. Cook the remaining sauce over low heat for 3 or 4 minutes. Keep the sauce warm and covered.

3. Place the tenderloins on the grill. baste them quickly with the sauce and cook them for 7 minutes over indirect heat with the grill top closed. lower the heat to 375°F, turn the tenderloins over and baste them again. Close the grill and cook an additional 5 minutes. turn off the grill and allow the meat to sit for another 5 minutes. this results in juicy, not overcooked, meat.

4. transfer the tenderloins to a cutting board. Cover them loosely with aluminum foil and allow them to stand 5 minutes. Cut the pork on the diagonal into 1-inch thick slices; arrange on a platter and serve the remaining sauce on the side.

Variation: add a tablespoon of fresh, chopped rosemary to the finished sauce.

A New Ciao Italia Cookbook

Easy-to-cook recipes are the hallmark of Mary Ann Esposito’s newest cookbook, Ciao Italia Slow and Easy, published by St. Martin’s Press in November 2007 ($27.95, 160 pages).

In this, her tenth, book, Esposito offers casseroles, braises, lasagne and stews. Among her favorites are Lobster and Shrimp Casserole with Fennel; Stuffed Flank Steak with Olives and Cheese; Lasagna with Artichokes and Ricotta Cheese; and Polenta and Vegetable Casserole. Buon appetito!